Like most visits to a physical therapist, Karen Prater’s begins in the waiting room. The difference, in the age of COVID-19, is that the room in questions is the front entryway to her home and her appointment takes place online. One day as she waited for Jennifer Penrose of Penrose & Associates Physical Therapy to appear on screen, the surrealness of the moment struck her. “I was sitting on my yoga ball, close to my laptop,” says Prater. “It was funny because I felt like I was in an actual waiting room.”
Prater had worked with many excellent physical therapists in her hometown of Eugene, Oregon over the years but they inevitably moved away. Her most recent attempts at finding someone to help with chronic tightness in her hip plus challenges with her knee and ankle had left her feeling discouraged. “The last couple of people I talked with gave me the impression that, ‘You’re in your 50s now and you need to slow down and accept that,’” she says. “I didn’t want to do that. I wanted to find someone who knew how to work with runners.”
She found that someone in Penrose while visiting her mother, also a Penrose & Associates patient, in Olympia. Since nearly all services were moving online, the first challenge was determining if she’d be eligible based on her location. The answer was yes; Penrose became licensed in the state of Oregon specifically so she could treat Prater.
The next step was setting up a space where Penrose would be able to see her full body both at rest and in motion to accurately assess her condition. In a one-bedroom, one-bathroom house, that wasn’t so easy. “I took over the front entryway,” says Prater. “I started collecting a whole bunch of carboard boxes and stacking them up. I would put my laptop computer on top and turn on the FaceTime app.”
Before the first session, Prater’s husband took short videos of her running, which Penrose converted into slow motion to break down individual movements. Then they reviewed the footage together. “Jennifer did a screen share and showed me exactly what she was looking at and what that indicated to her,” says Prater. “She had me do a series of movements, standing and lying down. She was good at explaining how she wanted me to move my feet or legs.”
After that initial evaluation, Penrose prescribed a series of exercises through an online platform with links to videos and descriptions of how to do them. Before long, Prater began to feel easier in her joints. “I had a 90 percent reduction in my symptoms,” she says. “If I’m doing a short run, I don’t even notice that right hip anymore and the knee and ankle don’t bother me at all. It really worked for me.”
One thing that Prater realized with telehealth was that she didn’t need the “magic hands on treatment.” In the past at physical therapy Prater always thought there was something “magical” about the hands on treatment. However, with telehealth if you have a therapist that can analyze movement and communicate very well the problem can be resolved without hands on treatment.
It’s a significant improvement over where she started. With gyms closed, Prater had returned to her former love of running, but no longer experienced the joy and mental freedom it had once proffered. “I enjoyed it because I didn’t think about my body,” she explains. “I would just enjoy the environment that I was in. But the last few years I was plodding along, and things hurt. It felt like an effort.”
Now, she says, that sense of freedom is back. “I can just relax and enjoy the environment I’m in while getting the exercise I need for my physical and mental health.”
For more information or to schedule an appointment with the Penrose Team, visit Penrose & Associates Physical Therapy online or call them at 360-456-1444.